Popularity perpetrates parking problems

Barbara Lawlor, Nederland.  In past years, Eldora Mountain Resort has experienced ‘parking lot full’ issues a few times a year. During the past holidays, especially after the large snowstorm, EMR had to turn vehicles away eight times.

 
The overflow traffic, not wanting to miss their day in the powder, parked wherever they could in Nederland, creating a glut in the Caribou Village parking lot, on residential roads and on downtown businesses streets.

 
Not only were the skiers and snowboarders frustrated but the locals looking to go grocery shopping or to visit a First Street business were also put out.


A couple of weeks ago, Barbara Hardt, the shopping center manager, counted 44 vehicles that had been left in the parking lot for over seven hours.

 
“When the RTD buses came down in the afternoon, I had the job of telling people to please not park here for extended p[eriods of time. I told them about the RTD lot, the Presbyterian Church lot and Ron Mitchell’s parking lot on First Street. Most of the people understood, most were very understanding.”

 
Last week, Hardt sent an email to EMR asking them for some help in solving the problem. EMR general manager Brent Tregaskis told her they would see what they could do to ease the situation.


Last weekend, Hardt says she stood in the parking lot for three hours, educating people about parking options once again.

 
Tregaskis worked out a plan, coming up with the money to rent three shuttle buses, purple ones, and hire drivers as well as a crew of people who would direct ski traffic to the parking areas in town when the resort lots were full.

 
It was an experimental venture. Although the resort was packed last weekend, there were no overflow issues.

 
Tregaskis met with developer Ron Mitchell who has 17 years experience dealing with parking issues in Nederland. Mitchell said he was impressed with Eldora, that the resort had paid out $8,000 to rent the buses, pay the drivers and the flaggers and pay for the necessary equipment.

 


“We are in unchartered territory,” said Tregaskis. “I spent 100 hours in the last month trying to figure out how to get employees to use the buses and carpool. The high school is a relief valve on normal days, with a 10-15 minute wait at the most.”

 
It is a challenge to be hypersensitive to locals and solve the parking problems and Tregaskis says the resort had to think creatively. The process resulted in renting the purple shuttle buses and having people turn into parking areas before they reached the roundabout. The flaggers were posted at strategic positions around town. Employees were asked to park at the teen center.

 
It turned out that the parking measures were unnecessary last weekend because the resort did not hit overflow, but at least they had a taste of how the plan would work.  They’re right on the edge of needing more parking.

 
Tregaskis says the increase in Eldora traffic is a result of I-70 traffic problems, of increased snowsports population and the improvements that the resort has made in the last year.

 
“But we are not alone,” says Tregaskis. “A-Basin and Keystone are booming too. In fact, when A-Basin is full, flaggers stand at the entrance and tell people they should keep going on to the next resort. But we are at the end of a dead-end road and all they can do is turn around. The long term solution will be to pick people up in Boulder and reward car poolers.”


Another parking lot above the upper parking lot could be a future solution and even charging for parking could be an option, one that Tregaskis would not like to see happen.

 
The next big day will be President’s Day and EMR plans to anticipate the crowd with the parking strategies in place.

 
Flagger Betty Bass says it was actually a fun day talking to all the different people. Carol Pike said, “The town super appreciated our work. Some of the drivers experienced frustration, but then said they were glad Eldora was doing this.”

Barbara Lawlor

Barbara is a reporter for The Mountain-Ear.